6 setembro 2007

VI. Hezbollah Conduct during the War

Hezbollah was responsible for numerous serious violations of the laws of war during its conflict with Israel. Its fighters indiscriminately fired thousands of rockets into Israel, killing 43 Israeli civilians (as well as 12 Israeli soldiers), which is documented in a separate Human Rights Watch report, Civilians under Assault.[71] Hezbollah also at times endangered Lebanese civilians by failing to take all feasible precautions to avoid firing rockets from populated areas, mixing with the Lebanese civilian population, and storing weapons and ammunition in populated areas. Hezbollah fighters fired rockets on an almost daily basis from the close proximity of UN observer posts in southern Lebanon, an act of shielding, at least in part, that endangered UNIFIL troops by drawing retaliatory Israeli fire on the nearby UN positions. Each of these violations is detailed below.

Human Rights Watch did not find evidence, however, that the deployment of Hezbollah forces in Lebanon routinely or widely violated the laws of war, as repeatedly alleged by Israel. We did not find, for example, that Hezbollah routinely located its rockets inside or near civilian homes. Rather, we found strong evidence that Hezbollah had stored most of its rockets in bunkers and weapon storage facilities located in uninhabited fields and valleys. Similarly, while we found that Hezbollah fighters launched rockets from villages on some occasions, and may have committed shielding, a war crime, when it purposefully and repeatedly fired rockets from the vicinity of UN observer posts with the possible intent of deterring Israeli counterfire, we did not find evidence that Hezbollah otherwise fired its rockets from populated areas. The available evidence indicates that in the vast majority of cases Hezbollah fighters left populated civilian areas as soon as the fighting started and fired the majority of their rockets from pre-prepared positions in largely unpopulated valleys and fields outside villages.

Israeli officials have made the serious allegation that Hezbollah routinely used "human shields" to immunize its forces from attack and thus bears responsibility for the high civilian toll in Lebanon. Apart from its position near UN personnel, Human Rights Watch found only a handful of instances of possible shielding behind civilians, but nothing to suggest there was widespread commission of this humanitarian law violation or any Hezbollah policy encouraging such practices. These relatively few cases do not begin to account for the Lebanese civilians who died under Israeli attacks.

When examining the practice of shielding, it is important to distinguish the serious humanitarian law violation of human shielding-the intentional use of civilians or other protected individuals to shield a military objective from attack-from the separate violation of endangering the civilian population by unnecessarily carrying out military operations in proximity to populated areas. We documented a number of instances where Hezbollah's actions endangered the civilian population but we did not find evidence that such practices were done with the intent of using civilians as shields.

While not required by the humanitarian law applicable during the conflict, the failure of Hezbollah fighters to wear uniforms or other insignia distinguishing them from the civilian population did doubtlessly place civilians at greater risk. Since Hezbollah fighters regularly appeared in civilian clothes, Israeli forces would have had difficulty distinguishing between fighters and other male, fighting-age civilians, and such difficulty increased the dangers of IDF operations to the civilian population of Lebanon. However, the failure of Hezbollah fighters to consistently distinguish themselves as combatants does not relieve Israeli forces of their obligation to distinguish at all times between combatants and civilians and to target only combatants.

A. Background: Hezbollah's Structure, Base of Support, and Military Secrecy

Hezbollah is a multifaceted militant Shi`ite political organization, whose activities in Lebanon extend far beyond military confrontation with Israel. Hezbollah is often described as a "state within a state" in Lebanon. It is represented in the Lebanese Parliament and in many municipalities throughout Lebanon, and enjoys genuine grassroots support in most of the Shi`a south, Beirut's Shi`a dominated southern suburbs, and Shi`a villages in the Beka` Valley adjoining Syria. Hezbollah is also responsible for extensive social and welfare programs focused on Shi`a communities in Lebanon and operates its own businesses; many Shi`a clerics in Lebanon openly support Hezbollah. Support for Hezbollah in Lebanon is far from universal even within the Shi`a community. Many Lebanese are suspicious of Hezbollah's religious roots and its links to Syria and Iran and would prefer if Hezbollah disarmed or if its military wing was incorporated into the Lebanese army.

Although Hezbollah operates openly as a militant political organization, the activities of its military wing, the "Islamic Resistance" (al-Muqawama al-Islamiyya), are shrouded in secrecy.[72] That secrecy itself serves an important military purpose for Hezbollah, as Hezbollah knows that Israel has relied extensively on intelligence and infiltration of militant groups and targeted strikes against militant leaders. In closely guarding any information about its military strategy, Hezbollah limits Israel's ability to target its leaders, members, and military installations. This strategy of secrecy significantly affected Israel's ability to target Hezbollah from the air, as Israel often lacked the intelligence information to target Hezbollah personnel and installations.

Hezbollah's fighters adhere to a strict code of silence and carefully guard their military information. During the 2006 war, Hezbollah's fighters gave almost no interviews to foreign or local reporters, often simply walking away without comment when approached by journalists. No local or foreign correspondents-not even those seen as sympathetic to Hezbollah-accompanied Hezbollah fighters during military operations.

Hezbollah enjoys considerable popular support from the Shi`a rural population of southern Lebanon in particular, but also in other Shi`a parts of Lebanon, including the Beka` Valley and the southern suburbs of Beirut. Although many Shi`as in Lebanon support political organizations other than Hezbollah, including Amal and the Lebanese Communist Party, many Shi`as in Lebanon as well as many Lebanese from other confessional groups support Hezbollah as a "resistance" organization to Israel and credit its armed activities with ending Israel's long occupation of southern Lebanon (1978-2000).[73] The extent of both Hezbollah's support and its control is evident in the prominent displays of Hezbollah flags in almost every Shi`a village in southern Lebanon, and the "martyr" posters depicting Hezbollah and Amal fighters who have died in battles with Israel lining main streets. At the same time, many Lebanese-Shi`a, Sunni, Christian, Druze, and nonsectarian-are deeply opposed to Hezbollah, considering Hezbollah a tool of Syrian and Iranian influence, and accusing Hezbollah of drawing all of Lebanon into regular and unnecessary conflict with Israel.

B. Hezbollah's Weapons Storage

Human Rights Watch documented a number of cases where Hezbollah violated the laws of war by storing weapons and ammunition in populated areas and making no effort to remove the civilians under their control from the area. Humantarian law requires warring parties to take all feasible precautions to protect civilian populations in areas under their control from the affects of attacks.[74] This includes avoiding deploying military targets such as weapons and ammunition in densely populated areas,[75] and when this is not possible, removing civilians from the vicinity of military objectives.[76] As one commentator writes:

Commanders will ... have to ask themselves before locating troops in a populated area whether it would not be feasible to do otherwise. So much depends on the circumstances at the time: the urgency or otherwise of the moment, the tactical situation, the level and density of the civilian population, the overall deployment or battle plans and many other factors.[77]

Intentionally using civilians to protect a military objective from attack would be shielding.

On July 13, at around 4:05 a.m., an Israeli air strike on the village of Bar`ashit demolished the home of Najib Hussain Farhat, a lottery card seller, and the unoccupied neighboring home of his brother, who had moved to Beirut in 1996. The air strike killed Najib, 54, and his 16-year-old daughter, Zainab, and severely injured his wife, son, and daughter. According to a well-informed source in the village, Hezbollah had rented the basement of the unoccupied home and had enlarged it into a "warehouse" to store large numbers of weapons. Neither Hezbollah nor Najib's relatives had informed Najib about the Hezbollah weapons cache next door, so he had not felt the need to evacuate his home when war broke out. The surviving relatives complained to Hezbollah officials about this incident, and they were met first with denials and then with threats from Hezbollah that it would withhold compensation to the family if they spoke out publicly:

After the incident, the family had a fight with Hezbollah. At first, Hezbollah denied the allegations, but when the whole town learned of the incident, they finally admitted it. The person they complained to is also in charge of compensation, and he delayed the payment to the family. The family has stopped speaking out because they are afraid they will lose the compensation.[78]

Some of the most serious allegations of Hezbollah placing weapons inside populated civilian areas emerged from the Sunni border village of Marwahin. According to the villagers of Marwahin, they began having problems with Hezbollah fighters and weapons infiltrating their village almost as soon as the war started. One witness described how two Hezbollah fighters, one dressed in military camouflage and a second in civilian clothes, came to Marwahin on July 12, the day of the abduction of the two IDF soldiers, and began scouting the village. An Israeli helicopter was overhead, looking for Hezbollah targets. One witness told Human Rights Watch that Zahra Abdullah, 52, one of the women who later died in a July 15 Israeli strike, shouted at the fighters to leave, saying that if they were spotted, the helicopter would attack the village.[79]

The Hezbollah fighters ignored her, the witness said, and returned later that day with a white van packed with weapons. They parked it next to the village mosque, where it remained until it was destroyed by an Israeli strike.[80] Unknown to the villagers, Hezbollah had also placed a large cache of rockets and other weapons in the home of a villager who was sympathetic to Hezbollah (the weapons cache was destroyed in an Israeli air strike).[81] Following the war, Human Rights Watch researchers found both the destroyed van and the destroyed weapons cache in the home, both still carrying the remains of rockets, rocket propelled grenades, and other weaponry. The storage of arms in a populated area endangered civilians in violation of the international humanitarian law requirement that Hezbollah take all feasible precautions to spare civilians during the armed conflict. However, Human Rights Watch was unable to discover evidence shedding light on whether that was done with the intent to use civilians to render the weapons immune from attack as would be required to make a legal case of shielding.

Similarly, Hezbollah's actions in the village again endangered civilians three days following the initial incident on July 12. On July 15, around 7 or 8 a.m., according to her surviving relatives, Zahra Abdullah told them that she spotted three Hezbollah fighters carrying weapons and rockets behind her home, hiding the weapons in blue blankets. She again confronted the fighters, telling them, "Please, there are kids inside this home." One of the Hezbollah fighters turned his automatic weapon on Zahra, and told her to "shut up and go inside." Zahra returned to her home, crying.[82] That day, many villagers fled from Marwahin following Israeli orders to evacuate the village. Twenty-three fleeing civilians from Marwahin, including Zahra Abdullah, were killed in an Israeli air strike on their convoy (see below).

Human Rights Watch has also received credible information that Hezbollah stored weapons in civilian areas in the southern suburbs of Beirut. One southern suburb resident told Human Rights Watch she visited a weapons storage facility on the second floor of an apartment building in the southern suburb of the Dahieh.[83] The same resident said that she witnessed Hezbollah transfering some of the weapons to a bomb shelter beneath a building where civilians had sought refuge. The Hezbollah militants covered the weapons with sheets, with the help of some of the civilians sheltering in the basement. According to the same witness, Hezbollah fighters also took shelter with the civilians in the basement.[84] The use of a civilian shelter in this manner at least endangers civilians in violation of the requirements of international humanitarian law and suggests an intent to use civilians as a shield against attack.

Human Rights Watch has no evidence to suggest that the placement of such weapons caches and Hezbollah fighters in Dahieh was systematic or widespread. In those instances Hezbollah stored weapons and deployed fighters in such a densely populated neighborhood, it was committing a serious violation of the laws of war, and if it purposefully used civilians to forestall Israeli attacks, was committing shielding. While Israel would have been justified in attacking the Hezbollah weapons caches and sheltering Hezbollah fighters, it remained under an obligation to ensure that its attacks were not indiscriminate or disproportionate-or to cancel the attack. Even in light of the evidence of a Hezbollah military presence in the Dahieh, Israel's massive destruction of the area was certainly both indiscriminate and disproportionate.

In the 94 incidents involving civilian deaths that Human Rights Watch investigated, we found evidence in only one case involving civilian deaths that Hezbollah weapons were stored in the building. Rather, it appears from our interviews and a review of publicly available reports on Hezbollah's military strategy that Hezbollah had stored most of its weapons and ammunition, notably rockets, in bunkers and weapon storage facilities located in the fields and the valleys surrounding villages.

Nicholas Blanford, the Beirut-based correspondent for The Times of London, The Christian Science Monitor, and Time magazine, described how Hezbollah prepared extensive fighting positions in rural, largely unpopulated areas of southern Lebanon:

Other than the permanent observation posts along the Blue Line, such as the fortified position on Shaikh Abbad hill near the village of Houla, most of Hizbollah's construction activities were shrouded in secrecy and kept to remoter tracts of the border [where] the group established mini security zones, off-limits to the general public. There were persistent reports over those six years of residents of villages in remote parts of the border being kept awake at night by distant explosions as Hizbullah dynamited new bunkers and positions. The extent and thoroughness of this military infrastructure was underestimated by observers and by the IDF, despite the latter enjoying extensive reconnaissance capabilities through overflight by jets and drones as well as possible assets on the ground in south Lebanon. Israeli troops came across some of these bunkers during the war, finding spacious well-equipped rooms 25 feet underground with side tunnels, storage chambers and TV cameras mounted at the entrance for security.[85]

A few months after the war, Blanford and a team of BBC journalists separately located and entered some of the Hezbollah bunkers in southern Lebanon, finding them undamaged from the war.[86] A number of villagers confirmed to Human Rights Watch the establishment of bunkers in areas off-limits to them. In the village of `Ain Ebel, villagers told Human Rights Watch that Hezbollah started digging in 2000 in the fields behind the village and had placed a number of fields adjacent to the village "off limits" to the local villagers.[87]

Hezbollah never denied its extensive preparations for war. In August 2006, at the end of the conflict, Shaikh Na`im Qassem, the deputy secretary-general of Hezbollah, told al-Manar television that "over the past six years, we have been working day and night to prepare, equip, and train because we never trusted this enemy [Israel]."[88]

C. Hezbollah's Rocket Firing Positions

In most southern Lebanese villages visited by Human Rights Watch, local villagers consistently stated that Hezbollah fighters had not fired rockets from within the village, but from nearby fields and orchards, or from more remote uninhabited valleys. On a few occasions, Human Rights Watch was able to establish through eyewitness interviews that Hezbollah fighters did fire directly from inhabited villages, a practice that would have put the civilian population of those villages at great risk of Israeli counterfire. While international humanitarian law recognizes that fighting from or near populated areas is permissible if there are no feasible alternatives, Hezbollah did have alternatives when it fired from inside villages in the [majority] of cases examined by Human Rights Watch. This is evidenced by the fact that Hezbollah had bunkers and positions outside villages and was able to actually use them a great deal of the time.

Human Rights Watch was able to confirm a number of cases where Hezbollah fighters fired from inside populated areas of villages, possibly drawing deadly retaliatory Israeli strikes that caused civilian casualties. On July 18, at 12:45 at night, an Israeli air strike hit two civilian homes in the center of `Aitaroun, killing nine members of the `Awada family.[89] According to surviving members of the family,[90] Hezbollah fighters had been firing rockets at Israel from approximately 100 to 150 meters away from their home around 10:15 p.m. that night (2 hours prior to the Israeli strike). Some of the members of the `Awada family had already abandoned another home on the outskirts of `Aitaroun because Hezbollah had been firing rockets from nearby that home:

Two days before the attack, [an `Awada family member] saw Hezbollah firing rockets from 50 meters away from her house, which is on the outskirts of the village. She saw them setting up the rockets and launching them from 50 meters away. She then fled her house and came to the house in the center of the village because she thought it would be safer there...
The night of the attack, Hezbollah was firing from inside the village. They should have stayed out of the village, not fired from inside. The men of the town should have talked to the fighters . From 100 or 150 meters away from our house, from inside the village, they were firing rockets. At 10:15 p.m., they were firing rockets from near our house. We heard the missiles going out.[91]

"We were sleeping; it was about 12:45 at night. Some were in the shelter, but we were in our home," said Manal Hassan `Alawiyya, a neighbor. "Suddenly we heard a plane flying low. The plane dropped a bomb, and all the windows in our house were blown out. My fianc took me down to the shelter, and he went to help the people at the house."[92]The strike killed nine members of the `Awada family: Hassan Mahmud `Awada, age 43, a shoemaker and clothes shop owner; his son Hussain Hassan `Awada, three; his sister Jamila Mahmud `Awada, 45; his sister's husband, Musa Naif `Awada, 45, a schoolteacher; and their five children `AliMusa `Awada, 17; `Abir Musa `Awada, 16; Hassan Musa `Awada, 12; Maryam Musa `Awada, 10; and Muhammad Musa `Awada, six. Thirteen other occupants of the home survived, including six children and five women. None of the people in the house had any connection to Hezbollah.

According to a villager from `Aitaroun, most of the civilians fled `Aitaroun after Hezbollah began to fire rockets from inside the village and the deadly Israeli air strikes on the two homes in the village on July 16 and 17: "When our house was hit, almost all of the civilians left the village. Hezbollah continued to fire rockets from inside the village."[93]

Human Rights Watch also established that Hezbollah fighters fired rockets nearby homes in the mixed Christian-Shi`a village of Yaroun, located just one kilometer north of the Israeli border. A witness from the village showed Human Rights Watch researchers the center of Yaroun, which Israeli strikes had virtually completely destroyed, and explained:

Hezbollah were shooting from the houses on the hill [in the center of town] with their Katyushas. The people were still in the town then, but not in the houses on the hill; the closest inhabited house was probably about 100 meters away. That neighborhood [where they were firing from] was almost completely destroyed. They were also shooting from the [unpopulated] valley behind the village. We can't go there now because of the [Israeli unexploded] cluster bombs.[94]

However, in most cases investigated by Human Rights Watch, Hezbollah fighters located themselves and their weapons outside populated areas, at positions often prepared years in advance of the conflict, and had only a fleeting presence in populated areas. A young Hezbollah fighter in Zebqine village explained that Hezbollah militants had prepared "the infrastructure"-caves to store rockets and launchers, access roads, and launching sites-in the rural valleys surrounding Zebqine for the past six years, and had pre-positioned the rocket launchers and rockets in these positions before the war:

We have two valleys from which we fired Ra`ed missiles at Israel, one on each side of the village. We've been preparing the infrastructure and the roads for six years ... The rockets are stored in the valleys.[95]

On one occasion, he said, a truck carrying Hezbollah militants in Zebqine had mounted at least one rocket launcher on a Mitsubishi truck, and during the war the truck broke down inside Zebqine as Hezbollah was moving the mobile rocket launcher from one valley to another, passing through the village. Israeli drones quickly located the missile launcher, and warplanes launched an immediate strike, destroying the truck and four nearby empty residences: "The rocket launcher was just being moved from one valley to the other," he explained.[96]

According to villagers and officials interviewed by Human Rights Watch, Hezbollah fighters stayed mostly outside the villages during the war, firing their rockets from the pre-prepared positions outside the villages. (Hezbollah fighters did confront Israeli troops on the ground when the Israeli troops entered Lebanon near the end of the war, after most civilians in the area had fled; some of the fiercest and deadliest fighting involved ground combat in the border villages of Maroon al-Ras, Bint Jbeil and `Aita al-Sha`ab.)

According to the former mukhtar of Hadatha, Hajj Abduljalil Salman Nasr, who remained in his village until the initial 48-hour ceasefire on July 31, 2007 and is not associated with Hezbollah, the village leadership had prohibited Hezbollah fighters from entering his village, and so Hezbollah had fought from prepared positions in the surrounding valleys:

At the time I was present in the village, the resistance was not inside the village. It was prohibited for them to fire rockets from inside the village; they had to go outside the village. The villagers do not allow the resistance to shoot from inside the village. The fighters made a lot of caves where they could hide [outside the village]. They have a Landrover with 8-12 missile launchers mounted on it, and their caves are at least two meters deep. When they launch, they move the vehicle out and back in. So the missile launcher stays in the field. It is prohibited to bring such weapons into the village; the villagers do not allow it because it would bring a catastrophe on them.[97]

A Hezbollah logistics and communications officer who remained in Hadatha throughout the war and participated in the fighting in the area supported the mukhtar's version of events. He told Human Rights Watch: "We were firing rockets from outside the villages. We did not fire one missile from a civilian area [in Hadatha]. However, when the direct confrontations took place, the fighting did take place between the houses. There were two houses in the village where we would go to bake bread."[98]

In the village of al-Jibbain, located just north of the Israeli border, 81-year-old `Ali Muhammad `Akil, a tobacco farmer, told Human Rights Watch about the Hezbollah fighters and rocket positions around his village. He explained that Hezbollah fighters did move through his village on occasion during the war, but that he had not seen them fire rockets from the village:

There is no Hezbollah position inside the village; they just move around. They fire their rockets from outside the village and from the edges of the village. Then Israel fires back. When Hezbollah fires a rocket from near a village, Israel fires back at the village.

The circumstances surrounding the deaths of four Hezbollah fighters in al-Jibbain-the only fighters killed in that village-lend support for `Akil's description of their activities. On August 3 or 4, an Israeli air strike killed four Hezbollah fighters (Hassan Sami Musalamani, `Ali Sami Musalamani, Hassan Ahmad `Akil, and `Abbas Ahmad `Akil) in an uninhabited valley some 900 meters from the nearest homes, apparently as they were firing rockets at Israel. Human Rights Watch researchers tried to visit the area where the four militants were killed, but a municipal official (who consulted with a Hezbollah commander on his mobile phone) prevented them from doing so until the site could be "cleaned up."[99]

The case of the village of `Ain B`al is a typical example. According to a villager of `Ain B`al, "We told [Hezbollah] not to fire from our town, and they agreed and fired from the orchards."[100] A second villager from `Ain B`al, Hussain `Ali Kiki, told Human Rights Watch how a cluster bomb injured his legs and killed his friend, `Ali Muhammad Abu `Eid, after the war when they returned to their orchard between Batulay and Ras al-`Ain (villages adjacent to `Ain B`al). He described the presence of Hezbollah rocket launching pads in the nearby fields:

The field I was in at the time I was injured did not have launching pads. However, fields next to it did. At the beginning, the Israelis were firing most of the cluster bombs on places where there were rocket launchers. But after that, they started throwing them everywhere.[101]

Human Rights Watch found similar cases of rocket launcher locations throughout the vast banana and citrus groves located along the coast south of Tyre. In the village of Mansouri, Hezbollah militants had fired rockets from banana plantations located along the coast; Israeli return fire resulted in the destruction of a beachside home occupied by the militants and damage to nearby civilian structures, including a private guesthouse.[102] In the village of QuLaila, just north of Mansouri, an unexploded Israeli cluster bomb injured the foot of 49-year-old Salih Ramez Karashet in his citrus orchard. He explained that Hezbollah had used his orchard to fire rockets: "There was definitely a military objective in the orchards. When we returned to the orchards [after the war], we found the remains of Hezbollah rocket launchers and exploded rockets."[103] On August 6, IDF commandos raided a building on the outskirts of Tyre that a Hezbollah team occupied, firing long-range rockets from nearby citrus groves into Israel. The raid killed at least two Hezbollah fighters, but the launching of long-range rockets continued from those same citrus orchards until the end of the war.[104]

Israel's own firing patterns in Lebanon support the conclusion that Hezbollah fired large numbers of its rockets from tobacco fields, banana, olive and citrus groves, and more remote, unpopulated valleys. Throughout southern Lebanon, Israel subjected such agricultural areas to heavy bombardment with 155mm and 77mm artillery rounds, as well as with M-26 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS) with M77 submunitions, a form of cluster weapon designed specifically to suppress, neutralize, and destroy launch locations. Israeli radar was able to locate some Hezbollah launch locations after a rocket was airborne, allowing IDF artillery teams to respond with artillery rounds and M77 submunition fire as an area-effect weapon, in an attempt to kill the launch crews as they escaped and to disable the rocket launcher itself. A large number of the groves and agricultural lands contaminated by duds and marked by artillery impact rounds from such strikes were located at least at the periphery of populated areas, although other suspected Hezbollah launching sites targeted by artillery and M77 cluster rounds were in much more remote and uninhabited valleys.

During and immediately after the war, Hezbollah cleared up a number of military sites that Israel had hit, removing destroyed rocket launchers and other weapons evidence. According to a top international demining official in Lebanon, "We did find a couple of Katyusha [rocket launchers] while cleaning up, but Hezbollah has generally cleaned things up themselves."[105]

D. Claims of Hezbollah "Human Shielding" Practices

Israeli officials have repeatedly accused Hezbollah of using the Lebanese civilian population as "human shields" by deploying their forces-fighters, weapons, and equipment-in civilian areas for the purpose of deterring IDF attack. On many occasions, Israeli officials blamed these alleged shielding practices as the primary cause for Lebanese civilian deaths. The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs website carries a typical statement:

The Hizbullah terrorists in Lebanon have purposely hidden themselves and stockpiled their missiles in residential areas, thus endangering the surrounding populations. Indeed, many of the missiles recently fired at Israel were stored and launched from or near private homes, commandeered by Hizbullah terrorists wishing to shield their actions behind civilians in order to thwart Israel's response.[106]

Similarly, in response to the July 30 Israeli Air Force strike on the village of Qana that killed 27 people, IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz blamed Hezbollah for the deadly incident, stating "The Hezbollah organization places Lebanese civilians as a defensive shield between itself and us while the IDF places itself as a defensive shield between the citizens of Israel and Hezbollah's terror. That is the principal difference between us."[107] On July 19, the IDF stated that "Hezbollah terrorists have turned southern Lebanon into a war zone, and are operating near population centers there, using civilians as human shields."[108] On the same day, the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, Dan Gillerman, told CNN: "We are trying to minimize hurting civilians, but when Hezbollah uses civilians as human shields, sometimes civilians will get hurt."[109]

As discussed in the legal chapter of this report (see above), the laws of war specifically prohibit the use of civilians as "human shields" to prevent the enemy from attacking:

The presence or movement of the civilian population or individual civilians shall not be used to render certain points or areas immune from military operations, in particular attempts to shield military objectives from attacks or to shield, favor or impede military operations. The Parties to the conflict shall not direct the movement of the civilian population or individual civilians in order to attempt to shield military objectives from attacks or to shield military operations.[110]

A key element of the humanitarian law violation of shielding is intention: the purposeful use of civilians to render military objectives immune from attack.

As noted above, we documented cases where Hezbollah stored weapons inside civilian homes or fired rockets from inside populated civilian areas. At minimum, that violated the legal duty to take all feasible precautions to spare civilians the hazards of armed conflict, and in some cases it suggests the intentional use of civilians to shield against attack. However, these cases were far less numerous than Israeli officials have suggested. The handful of cases of probable shielding that we did find does not begin to account for the civilian death toll in Lebanon. (The related issue of Hezbollah's illegally using several UN posts near the Lebanon-Israel border as shields is discussed in the next section.)

In addition to its own research, Human Rights Watch carefully reviewed local and international press accounts, IDF and Israeli government statements, and the work of various independent think tanks to evaluate allegations of human shielding by Hezbollah. While the Israeli government and certain commentators have described Hezbollah shielding as widespread, they have not provided convincing evidence to support such allegations.[111] The Israeli government provided some video footage taken from drones showing Hezbollah fighters firing rockets from what appear to be civilian structures, or entering such structures, but the footage gives no indication whether these structures were inhabited by civilians or located in then-populated areas.

The Israeli government's allegations seem to stem from an unwillingness to distinguish the prohibition against human shielding-the intentional use of civilians to shield a military objective from attack-from that against endangering the civilian population by failing to take all feasible precautions to minimize civilian harm, and even from instances where Hezbollah conducted operations in residential areas empty of civilians. Individuals responsible for shielding can be prosecuted for war crimes; failing to fully minimize harm to civilians is not considered a violation prosecutable as a war crime.[112]

To constitute shielding, there needs to be a specific intent to use civilians to deter an attack. For example, during the 2003 conflict in Iraq, Human Rights Watch documented the use of human shields by Iraqi forces. Witnesses observed irregular Iraqi armed forces (known as fedayeen) confronting coalition troops with women and children as human shields, lining up women and children in front of their vehicles to prevent coalition troops from attacking them, and placing women and children on their vehicles when attacking coalition positions.[113]

Many of the allegations of widespread shielding highlight cases that, upon closer examination, do not show that they are said to demonstrate. For example, one of the most widely reported incidents of alleged human shielding by Hezbollah occurred in the village of `Ain Ebel, a Christian town approximately five kilometers from the Israeli border and a former stronghold for the Israeli-backed South Lebanese Army (SLA), a force opposed to Hezbollah.[114] Christian villagers fleeing the village of `Ain Ebel complained about Hezbollah tactics, telling the New York Times that "Hezbollah came to [our village] to shoot its rockets . . . They are shooting from between our houses."[115] Another villager told a blogger that Hezbollah fired at a convoy of fleeing civilians to prevent them from leaving because it wanted to use the civilians of `Ain Ebel as "human shields."[116]

Human Rights Watch visited `Ain Ebel multiple times to investigate these allegations. Our investigation revealed that Hezbollah violated the prohibition against unnecessarily endangering civilians when they took over civilian homes in the populated village, fired rockets close to homes, and drove through the village in at least one instance with weapons in their cars.[117] However, the available evidence does not demonstrate human shielding-the purposeful use of civilians to deter an attack-in `Ain Ebel. Hezbollah did not seize any inhabited houses in the village; even witnesses that criticized Hezbollah's behavior agreed that Hezbollah took over only houses that had no one in them.[118] While Hezbollah fired rockets from within the village, none of the witnesses interviewed by Human Rights Watch claimed that Hezbollah fired from or near homes that were populated at the time, or fled into populated areas of the village after firing their rockets. According to a local villager, Hezbollah's firing took place from fields next to the village that it had taken over after the Israeli withdrawal in 2000, and where it had placed bunkers and rocket launchers.[119] Hezbollah had prevented villagers from visiting these fields, in part because it feared the villagers might report on its activities.

We also interviewed individuals who were in a convoy that reportedly came under Hezbollah attack, allegedly to keep them from fleeing the village. On July 24,around 9:30a.m., a convoy of 17 cars containing villagers from `Ain Ebel and persons displaced from other neighboring villages came under machine-gun fire as their convoy crossed a hilly area on the immediate outskirts of `Ain Ebel, referred to as Tal Massoud. The area was the scene of earlier machine-gun fire between Hezbollah fighters and Israeli soldiers. Individuals in the convoy told Human Rights Watch that the fire came from the north side of the road, from behind a restaurant named "GrandPalace," and that the fire must have come from Hezbollah as Israeli troops had not yet made it to that side of the road.[120] The fire hit the first five to six cars in the convoy and injured up to 11 civilians. There were contradictory reports about whether anyone died, with some witnesses stating that no one died, while others thought that a Shi`ite man from `Aitaroun died.[121] None of the individuals interviewed saw the men who fired on them.

Despite the gravity of the incident, it is unclear whether Hezbollah fired on the convoy to prevent the villagers from leaving, or whether the villagers were caught in crossfire between Hezbollah and the IDF. Ambulances transferred the wounded to a Hezbollah-run hospital, Salah Ghandur, for treatment; the wounded later walked to Tibnine before ambulances transferred them to safety in Tyre.[122] Other cars left `Ain Ebel in the following days without any problems.[123]

According to almost all of the witnesses interviewed by Human Rights Watch throughout Lebanon, Hezbollah fighters and officials evacuated their offices as soon as the conflict began and often warned other occupants in the same building to also evacuate. Even when not warned, militants, as well as residents in pro-Hezbollah neighborhoods or living close to known Hezbollah officials, often evacuated their homes of their own accord, knowing from past Israeli bombing campaigns that Israel would target the homes and offices of Hezbollah officials and militants.

For example, Mukhtar `Adil Amar, the village leader of Mashghara, a mixed Shi`a and Christian village in the southern Beka` Valley, explained to Human Rights Watch: "The Hezbollah [members] were not staying in their homes. When the war started, they all left . A house in the lower neighborhood was hit, the house of [a Hezbollah member], but no one died in that strike."[124] Michel Habbush, a Christian worker at the electricity company in Mashghara, confirmed the Mukhtar's account in a separate interview:

The upper neighborhood of Mashghara doesn't have many Hezbollah members. Most of the Hezbollah members lived in the lower neighborhood, and that neighborhood was empty since the beginning of the war . Those who are in Hezbollah left at the beginning of the war, because they knew they were in danger. The people living near Hezbollah members, they also left their homes immediately when the war started.[125]

Human Rights Watch did not document any cases where Hezbollah fighters returned to their home villages with the intention of using a civilian presence to shield themselves from attack. While many Hezbollah fighters, often fighting near their own villages, remained in contact with their families and sometimes visited them, and while several Hezbollah fighters died together with civilians in Israeli strikes on villages, in the cases we examined, eyewitnesses told us that the fighters were killed while checking on or assisting villagers.

E. Hezbollah Firing from Near UN Positions

Although Human Rights Watch found only a limited number of cases where Hezbollah fighters fired weapons from populated civilian areas, there is strong evidence to suggest that Hezbollah fired much more frequently from the vicinity of UN outposts in southern Lebanon. According to reliable UNIFIL records, Hezbollah fighters fired rockets on an almost daily basis from close proximity to UN observer posts in southern Lebanon, often drawing retaliatory Israeli fire on the nearby UN positions as a result. There are two likely motives for this conduct, which are not mutually exclusive. On the one hand, the hills on which most observation posts are located are also good places from Hezbollah's perspective for firing on Israel. On the other hand, Hezbollah commanders may have at times selected those positions for firing because the presence of UN personnel made it more difficult for Israel to counterattack. Insofar as the latter consideration motivated Hezbollah combatants, that would constitute shielding.

Peacekeeping forces are not parties to a conflict, even if they are usually professional soldiers. As long as they do not take part in hostilities, they are entitled to the same protections under the laws of war afforded to civilians and other non-combatants.[126] Deploying military forces or materiel near a UN base or outpost would violate at the very least the duty to take all feasible precautions to avoid harm to noncombatants if there were feasible alternatives. Intentionally using the presence of peacekeepers to make one's forces immune from attack amounts to human shielding.[127]

The UNIFIL statements issued during the conflict demonstrate that Hezbollah fighters fired from the vicinity of UN positions on a near daily basis and that this frequency increased as the fighting intensified.[128]

  • On July 19-20, Hezbollah fighters fired rockets from the immediate vicinity of the UN positions in Naqoura and Maroon al-Ras. The IDF responded with shelling of the areas, and 10 IDF artillery shells fell inside the UN position at Naqoura, while four IDF artillery shells fell inside the UN position in Maroon al-Ras, causing extensive material damage to both UN positions.[129]
  • On July 25-26, Hezbollah fighters fired rockets from the vicinity of four UN positions: `Alma al-Sha`ab, Tibnine, Bar`ashit, and al-Tiri. The same period, an Israeli precision-guided missile destroyed a UN observer post at Khiam, killing four UN observers (a case discussed below), but there was no Hezbollah firing reported from near this position.[130]
  • On July 26-27, Hezbollah fighters fired rockets from the vicinity of four UN positions: Marwahin, `Alma A-Sha`ab, Bar`ashit, and al-Tiri.[131]
  • On July 27-28, Hezbollah fighters fired rockets from the vicinity of five UN positions: `Alma a-Sha`ab, al-Tiri, Beit Yahoun, and Tibnine. UNIFIL noted that "[t]he number of troops in some Ghanaian battalion positions is somewhat reduced because of the increased safety risk of troops due to frequent incidents of Hezbollah firing from the vicinity of the positions, and shelling and bombardment close to the positions from the Israeli side."[132]
  • On July 28-29, Hezbollah fighters fired rockets from the vicinity of UN positions on six occasions: Tibnine (twice), al-Tiri, Beit Yahoun, and `Alma Sha`ab (twice).[133]
  • On July 29-30, Hezbollah fighters fired rockets from the vicinity of three UN positions: Tibnine, al-Tiri, and Bar`ashit. Hezbollah fighters also fired small arms from the vicinity of two UN positions: `Alma al-Sha`ab and al-Duhayyra.[134]
  • On July 30-31, Hezbollah fighters fired rockets from the vicinity of three UN positions: `Alma al-Sha`ab (where Hezbollah fighters also fired small arms from the vicinity of the UN position), Tibnine, and al-Tiri, leading to IDF aerial bombardment in the vicinity of the `Alma al-Sha`ab UN position.[135]
  • On July 31-August 1, Hezbollah fighters fired rockets from the vicinity of three UN positions: Tibnine, Haris, and al-Tiri.[136]
  • On August 1-2, Hezbollah fighters fired four rockets from the vicinity of a UNIFIL team and Lebanese Army Engineering Contingent sent to the village of Srifa to assist with the recovery of bodies from the rubble. The IDF responded with shelling, forcing the withdrawal of the UNIFIL team from the recovery effort. Hezbollah fighters also fired rockets from the vicinity of three UNIFIL positions: Tibnine, al-Tiri, and `Alma al-Sha`ab.[137]
  • On August 2-3, two Hezbollah rockets aimed at Israeli targets struck the UNIFIL position in Houla, causing extensive material damage but no casualties. Hezbollah fighters fired rockets from the vicinity of four UN positions: `Alma al-Sha`ab, Marwahin, Tibnine, and al-Tiri.[138]
  • On August 3-4, Hezbollah fighters fired rockets from the vicinity of two UN positions: `Alma al-Sha`ab and al-Tiri.[139]
  • On August 4-5, Hezbollah fighters fired rockets from the vicinity of one UN position, Tibnine.[140]
  • On August 5-6, a Hezbollah mortar round fell on the Headquarters of the Chinese UNIFIL contingent at Hinniyya, wounding three Chinese observers. Hezbollah fighters fired rockets from the vicinity of three UN positions: Tibnine, al-Tiri, and Beit Yahoun.[141]
  • On August 6-7, Hezbollah fighters fired rockets twice from the vicinity of the UN position in Houla, and also fired multiple rockets from the vicinity of the UN position in Tibnine, leading to IAF air strikes on the area around the UN position.[142]
  • On August 7-8, Hezbollah fighters fired rockets from the vicinity of the UN position in Tibnine, leading to IAF air strikes on the area around the UN position for a second day.[143]
  • On August 8-9, Hezbollah fighters fired rockets from the vicinity of two UN positions, al-Tiri and Tibnine.[144]
  • On August 9-10, Hezbollah fighters fired rockets from close by the UN position in Houla, and from the vicinity of three UN positions: Labouneh, Tibnine, and al-Tiri. Four Hezbollah mortar rounds landed inside the UNIFIL position at Deir Mimess, causing extensive material damage.[145]
  • On August 10-11, Hezbollah fighters fired rockets from the vicinity of four UN positions: Labouneh, Tibnine, Bar`ashit, and Haris. Hezbollah fighters also fired upon a UNIFIL armored car moving north of Naqoura, and a Hezbollah Katyusha rocket fell on the UNIFIL Headquarters in Naqoura, causing material damage and lightly wounding a French soldier.[146]
  • On August 11-12, Hezbollah fighters fired rockets from the vicinity of two UN positions: Tibnine and al-Tiri.[147]
  • On August 12-13, UNIFIL did not report any cases of Hezbollah fighters firing rockets from the vicinity of UN positions, but did note that a Hezbollah missile fell directly inside the UN position in Ghanduriyeh, causing material damage but no casualties.[148]
  • On August 13-14, the last period of fighting prior to the cessation of hostilities, UNIFIL did not report any cases of Hezbollah fighters firing rockets from the vicinity of UN positions, but did note that Israeli forces fired at least 85 shells directly inside UN positions at Tibnine, Haris, al-Tiri, and Marun al-Ras, causing "massive material damage to all positions."[149]

As noted above, Hezbollah should take immediate steps to ensure that this illegal conduct is not replicated in any future conflict.[150]

F. Hezbollah Combatants in Civilian Clothes

On the few occasions that Human Rights Watch researchers encountered Hezbollah fighters in the field during the conflict, those Hezbollah fighters were invariably dressed in civilian clothes, and often had no visible weaponry on them. Especially away from the frontlines, Hezbollah fighters appear to have operated in small cells of fighters, dressed in civilian clothes and maintaining contact with each other as well as Hezbollah fighters in other cells with handheld radios.[151] Away from active areas of combat, Hezbollah fighters were normally unarmed, keeping their weapons out of sight until needed. Only during active confrontations with Israeli forces did some Hezbollah fighters, particularly Hezbollah's elite fighters, fight in military uniforms.[152]

While the humanitarian law applicable during the Israeli conflict with Hezbollah placed no obligation on those participating in the hostilities to wear uniforms,[153] the routine appearance of Hezbollah fighters in civilian clothes and their failure to carry their weapons openly put the civilian population of Lebanon at risk. Since Hezbollah fighters regularly appeared in civilian clothes, Israeli forces would have had difficulty distinguishing between fighters and other male, fighting-age civilians, and such difficulty increased the dangers of IDF operations to the civilian population of Lebanon. However, the failure of Hezbollah fighters to consistently distinguish themselves as combatants does not relieve Israeli forces of their obligation to distinguish at all times between combatants and civilians and to target only combatants.[154] The difficulty of making that distinction does not negate Israel's obligation. In cases of doubt, a person must be considered a civilian and not a legitimate military target.[155]

[71] In addition to the deaths, Hezbollah rockets also caused 33 severe injuries, 68 moderate injuries, and 1,388 light injuries among Israeli civilians, and an additional 2,773 Israeli civilians were treated for shock.

[72] The deputy secretary general of Hezbollah, Na`im Qassem, credits military secrecy as the "key to success" to Hezbollah's military strategy. Qassem, Hizbollah: The Story from Within, p. 69-70.

[73] Hezbollah's popular support is reflected in the massive turnout for its rallies. Media outlets estimated the attendance at Hezbollah's "Victory Rally" on September 22, 2006 in the hundreds of thousands.

[74] See Protocol I, article 58(c).

[75] See Protocol I, article 58(b).

[76] See Protocol I, article 58(a).

[77] APV Rogers, Law on the Battlefield (Manchster: Mancester University Press, second edition, 2004) p. 123.

[78] Human Rights Watch interview (name, place, and date withheld, on file at Human Rights Watch).

[79] Human Rights Watch interview (name, place, and date withheld, on file at Human Rights Watch).

[80] Ibid.

[81] Human Rights Watch interview (name, place, and date withheld, on file at Human Rights Watch).

[82] Human Rights Watch interview (name, place, and date withheld, on file at Human Rights Watch).

[83] Human Rights Watch interview (name withheld), Beirut, August 14, 2006.

[84] Ibid.

[85] Nicholas Blanford, "Hizbollah and the IDF: Accepting New Realities Along the Blue Line," The MIT Electronic Journal of Middle East Studies, Vol. 6, Summer 2006; Jonathan Finer, "Israeli Soldiers Find a Tenacious Foe in Hizbullah," The Washington Post, August 8, 2006

[86] Nicholas Blanford, "Inside Hizballah's Hidden Bunkers," Time Magazine, March 29, 2007, http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1604529,00.html (accessed April 3, 2007); "Hunting for Hezbollah," BBC This World, May 31, 2007, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/this_world/6701117.stm (accessed June 11, 2007).

[87] Human Rights Watch interview, (name withheld), `Ain Ebel, August 20, 2006.

[88] Interview with al-Manar television, August 17, 2006, cited by Blanford, "Hizbollah and the IDF: Accepting New Realities Along the Blue Line," The MIT Electronic Journal of Middle East Studies.

[89] In our earlier report, Fatal Strikes, Human Rights Watch did not have information about Hezbollah firing from the area. A witness quoted by Human Rights Watch for that report stated "To my knowledge, Hezbollah was not operating in the area, but I can't be 100 percent sure because we were sleeping. There is a road near the house that Hezbollah could of course use to move around, but it was late and we were asleep in the shelter." Fatal Strikes, pp. 24-25.

[90] This survivor had remained in the border village of `Aitaroun after the attack, and Human Rights Watch was unable to travel to `Aitaroun during the war because of the ongoing fighting in the area. Hence, the information provided by the survivor was not available to Human Rights Watch at the time of the publication of Fatal Strikes.

[91] Human Rights Watch interview (name withheld), `Aitaroun, September 19, 2006.

[92] Human Rights Watch interview with Manal Hassan `Alawiyya, Beirut, July 23, 2006.

[93] Human Rights Watch interview (name withheld), `Aitaroun, September 19, 2006.

[94] Human Rights Watch interview with villager (name withheld), Yaroun, September 25, 2006.

[95] Human Rights Watch interview with Hezbollah militant, Zebqine, September 15, 2006.

[96] Human Rights Watch interview with Hezbollah militant, Zebqine, September 15, 2006.

[97] Human Rights Watch interview with Hajj Abduljalil Salman Nasr, Hadatha, September 14, 2006.

[98] Human Rights Watch interview with Hezbollah officer (name withheld), Hadatha, October 23, 2006.

[99] Ibid. The municipal official claimed to Human Rights Watch that there was a danger from unexploded ordinance in the area, but the repeated calls from the Hezbollah official to ensure Human Rights Watch was not proceeding to the attack site strongly suggests that there were destroyed rocket launchers, rockets, or a field position at the site.

[100] Human Rights Watch interview with Hassan Muhammed Nasser, `Ain B`al, September 22, 2006.

[101] Human Rights Watch interview with Hussain `Ali Kiki, `Ain B`al, September 22, 2006.

[102] Human Rights Watch interview with owners of guest house (names withheld), Mansouri, September 2006.

[103] Human Rights Watch interview with Salih Ramez Karashet, HammoudHospital, Saida, September 22, 2006.

[104] Blanford, "Hizbollah and the IDF: Accepting New Realities Along the Blue Line," The MIT Electronic Journal of Middle East Studies.

[105] Human Rights Watch interview with demining official (name withheld), Tyre, September 14, 2006.

[106] Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs website, "Hizbullah's Exploitation of Lebanese Population Centers and Civilians: Photographic Evidence," http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/MFAArchive/2000_2009/2006/Operation+Change+of+Direction+Video+Clips.htm (accessed October 24, 2006). The video footage presented on the website, of a single incident, does not support such a sweeping statement. The footage in question, moreover, is suggestive but inconclusive even with respect to the specific incident depicted: the video shows Hezbollah fighters firing rockets from buildings, but does not answer the question of whether the buildings were inhabited by civilians at the time or were located in populated areas.

[107] IDF Spokesperson, "Completion of Inquiry into July 30th Incident in Qana," August 3, 2006, http://www1.idf.il/DOVER/site/mainpage.asp?sl=EN&id=7&docid=55484.EN (accessed April 4, 2007).

[108] IDF Spokesperson, "Warnings dropped to Protect Southern Lebanese civilians," July 19, 2006, http://www1.idf.il/DOVER/site/mainpage.asp?sl=EN&id=7&docid=54602.EN (accessed April 4, 2007).

[109] CNN, "The Situation Room," broadcast of July 19, 2006, http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0607/19/sitroom.03.html (accessed April 4, 2007).

[110] Protocol I, article 51(7); see also Fourth Geneva Convention, article 28.

[111] The evidence presented by those arguing Hezbollah engaged in systematic shielding (and that these shielding practices were primarily responsible for the large number of civilian casualties) is often flimsy. For example, Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz has offered eight "credible news sources" that reported incidents of the use of civilian shields by Hezbollah. Alan Dershowitz, "What is 'Human Rights Watch' Watching?", Jerusalem Post, August 24, 2006. A close examination of those eight "credible news stories" provides almost no evidence; several of the news stories simply report second-hand information or the views of people who were not in Lebanon during the conflict. See Aryeh Neier, "The Attack on Human Rights Watch," New York Review of Books, November 2, 2006.

[112] See, for example, Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, article 8(2)(b)(xxiii) (prohibiting use of human shields.)

[113] See Human Rights Watch, Off Target: The Conduct of the War and Civilian Casualties in Iraq (Human Rights Watch, 2003), pp. 67-69.

[114] See, for example, Sabrina Tavernise, "Christians Fleeing Lebanon Denounce Hezbollah," The New York Times, July 28, 2006; Michael Totten, "The Siege of Ain Ebel," http://www.michaeltotten.com/archives/001361.html (accessed on February 1, 2007); US Newswire, "Hezbollah is Using Christian Villages to Shield its Military Operations in Violation of International Law, Says CSI" [CSI stands for Christian Solidarity International], August 2, 2006; Mark MacKinnon, "Christian villagers have nowhere to run; Caught between warring sides, many stay to protect their historic home," The Globe and Mail (Toronto), August 2, 2006.

[115] Tavernise, "Christians Fleeing Lebanon Denounce Hezbollah," The New York Times.

[116] Totten, "The Siege of Ain Ebel."

[117] Human Rights Watch interview (name withheld), `Ain Ebel, August 20, 2006; Human Rights Watch interview (name withheld), `Ain Ebel, December 28, 2006.

[118] Human Rights Watch interview (name withheld), `Ain Ebel, August 20, 2006. See also testimony in Totten, "The Siege of Ain Ebel."

[119] Human Rights Watch interview (name withheld), `Ain Ebel, August 20, 2006.

[120] Human Rights Watch interviews (names withheld), `Ain Ebel, December 28, 2006.

[121] Ibid. See also testimony in Totten, "The Siege of Ain Ebel," to the effect that no one died in the attack.

[122] Human Rights Watch interviews (names withheld), `Ain Ebel, December 28, 2006.

[123] Human Rights Watch interview (name withheld), `Ain Ebel, December 28, 2006.

[124] Human Rights Watch interview with `Adil `Amar, Mukhtar of Mashghara, September 9, 2006.

[125] Human Rights Watch interview with Michel Habbush, Mashghara, September 9, 2006.

[126] See ICRC, Customary International Humanitarian Law, p. 112.

[127]See Protocol I, article 51(7), "The presence or movements of the civilian population or individual civilians shall not be used to render certain points or areas immune from military operations, in particular in attempts to shield military objectives from attacks or to shield, favour, or impede military operations."

[128] UNIFIL press statements were issued each afternoon during the conflict, and covered the previous 24 hours of the conflict. Hence, the press release of July 20 would cover the period of the afternoon of July 19 up to the afternoon of July 20.

[129] UNIFIL, "Press Release," July 20, 2006, http://www.un.org/Depts/dpko/missions/unifil/pr04.pdf (accessed April 4, 2007).

[130] UNIFIL, "Press Release," July 26, 2006, http://www.un.org/Depts/dpko/missions/unifil/pr010.pdf ((accessed April 4, 2007).

[131] UNIFIL, "Press Release," July 27, 2006, http://www.un.org/Depts/dpko/missions/unifil/pr011.pdf (accessed April 4, 2007).

[132] UNIFIL, "Press Release," July 28, 2006, http://www.un.org/Depts/dpko/missions/unifil/pr012.pdf (accessed April 4, 2007).

[133] UNIFIL, "Press Release," July 29, 2006, http://www.un.org/Depts/dpko/missions/unifil/pr013.pdf (accessed April 4, 2007).

[134] UNIFIL, "Press Release," July 30, 2006, http://www.un.org/Depts/dpko/missions/unifil/pr014.pdf (accessed April 4, 2007).

[135] UNIFIL, "Press Release," July 31, 2006, http://www.un.org/Depts/dpko/missions/unifil/pr015.pdf (accessed April 4, 2007).

[136] UNIFIL, "Press Release," August 1, 2006, http://www.un.org/Depts/dpko/missions/unifil/pr016.pdf (accessed April 4, 2007).

[137] UNIFIL, "Press Release," August 2, 2006, http://www.un.org/Depts/dpko/missions/unifil/pr017.pdf (accessed April 4, 2007).

[138] UNIFIL, "Press Release," August 3, 2006, http://www.un.org/Depts/dpko/missions/unifil/pr018.pdf (accessed April 4, 2007).

[139] UNIFIL, "Press Release," August 4, 2006, http://www.un.org/Depts/dpko/missions/unifil/pr019.pdf (accessed April 4, 2007).

[140] UNIFIL, "Press Release," August 5, 2006, http://www.un.org/Depts/dpko/missions/unifil/pr020.pdf (accessed April 4, 2007).

[141] UNIFIL, "Press Release," August 6, 2006, http://www.un.org/Depts/dpko/missions/unifil/pr021.pdf (accessed April 4, 2007).

[142] UNIFIL, "Press Release," August 7, 2006, http://www.un.org/Depts/dpko/missions/unifil/pr022.pdf (accessed April 4, 2007).

[143] UNIFIL, "Press Release," August 8, 2006, http://www.un.org/Depts/dpko/missions/unifil/pr023.pdf (accessed April 4, 2007).

[144] UNIFIL, "Press Release," August 9, 2006, http://www.un.org/Depts/dpko/missions/unifil/pr024.pdf (accessed April 4, 2007).

[145] UNIFIL, "Press Release," August 10, 2006, http://www.un.org/Depts/dpko/missions/unifil/pr025.pdf (accessed April 4, 2007).

[146] UNIFIL, "Press Release," August 11, 2006, http://www.un.org/Depts/dpko/missions/unifil/pr026.pdf (accessed April 4, 2007).

[147] UNIFIL, "Press Release," August 12, 2006, http://www.un.org/Depts/dpko/missions/unifil/pr027.pdf (accessed April 4, 2007).

[148] UNIFIL, "Press Release," August 13, 2006, http://www.un.org/Depts/dpko/missions/unifil/pr028.pdf (accessed April 4, 2007).

[149] UNIFIL, "Press Release," August 14, 2006, http://www.un.org/Depts/dpko/missions/unifil/pr029.pdf (accessed April 4, 2007).

[150] An analysis of IDF attacks on UNIFIL is included in Section VIII, under the subheading "Killing of Four UN Observers, Khiam, July 25."

[151] See for example, Greg Myre, "Wounded Israelis tell of a tough, elusive enemy: Unexpectedly fierce ground battles," The New York Times, August 11, 2006 (quoting an IDF captain who spent four days in Bint Jbeil commenting on Hezbollah: "They work in small units or two or three men. They wear civilian clothes. You don't see them, you just see their fire."); Mark MacKinnon, "In birthplace of Hezbollah, support builds as bombs fall; Staunch 'reservists' stay after tourists, bureaucrats flee," The Globe and Mail (Toronto), August 9, 2006 (describing reserve Hezbollah fighters that he met in Baalbek: "They carried no obvious weapons, but kept in touch with unseen others over constantly crackling walkie-talkies. Though dressed in civilian clothes, they were Hezbollah security men"); Bassem Mroue, "AP Blog: Reports From Mideast Conflict, August 12, 2006," Associated Press Newswire (recounting how "several Hezbollah members, all in civilian clothes with blue or beige caps and carrying walkie talkies, showed up and asked us to follow them"); The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, "Hizballah at War: a Military Assessment," December 2006, p. 5: ("In general-but not exclusively-Hizballah's fighting units were squad-sized elements of seven to 10 men At the lower levels, fighters made use of two-way radios for communication within the villages and between isolated fighting positions.")

[152] See for example, Nicholas Blanford, "Hezbollah fighters emerge from rubble as refugees defy curfew to head home," The Times (London), August 15, 2006 (describing a Hezbollah fighter: "He wore a sweat shirt and khaki-coloured trousers rather than the camouflage uniform normally worn by Hezbollah fighters in the field. Some of his companions wore combat trousers and boots, lending them a paramilitary appearance.")

[153] Article 44 of Protocol I provides that "to promote the protection of the civilian population from the effects of hostilities, combatants are obliged to distinguish themselves from the civilian population while they are engaged in an attack or in a military operation preparatory to an attack." However, Israel is not a party to Protocol I and article 44 is not considered reflective of customary international law.

[154] Protocol I, article 48.

[155] Protocol I, article 50(1).